PN proven wrong saying 10% of EU funds were enough for Gozo – Psalia
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Mr Frank Psalia, “an expert on the development of Gozo,” has argued that, “the Nationalist Government was proven wrong in saying that 10% of EU funds were enough for Gozo. It should have been given 31% of EU, not 10%.”
Psalia was participating in the Conference – What the Gozitans expect from Europe – organised by the Gozo Branch of MEP Alfred Sant and held in Marsalforn.
He added that, during its negotiations with the European Commission in 2001/2002, the Maltese Government inculcated in the Gozitans the prospects for Gozo to catch up first with the level of the economic development of Malta and then with that of Europe.
“At that time Gozo’s development level was 58% of the EU average whereas that of Malta was 82%,” Mr Psalia said. “So Gozo lagged well behind Malta and even much farther behind the EU in terms of economic development.”
He went on to say that the Government allocated to Gozo 10% of the EU funds received by Malta. “The Government based the 10% allocation on the size of the Gozo population which was around 7% of the Maltese population and topped it up by a further 3% as a catching up effort,” stated Mr Psalia.
Frank Psalia said that as Permanent Secretary for Gozo he “beseech ed the Government to increase the allocation as 10% were certainly not enough.” Psalia said he had based his proposal on irrefutable points:
His position was that the land mass of Gozo was 27% that of the island of Malta, its coast 31% and its agricultural area 36%. He had maintained that the % of EU funds for these areas of development in Gozo should at least be of the same relative size of each area.
“The Government stuck to its guns on the issue,” stated Mr Psalia. “The result was that Gozo slipped further behind.”
He remarked that, “as a matter of fact Gozo’s development level fell from 58% in 2003 to 54% in 2015. In contrast, Malta’s development level during the same period went up from 82% to 96% average.”
According to Frank Psalia, “on another point that is relevant to the level of development, Gozo does not have a bright future within the EU.”
To drive this point home Psalia said that in a report on the economic and social situation of Gozo carried out by the European Commission in 2012, it is emphatically pointed out that:
* “GDP growth rates in Gozo are higher than in most UK, Spanish and Nordic islands;
* The accessibility of Gozo is much better than for many island regions in the EU;
* Unemployment in Gozo is generally below average in comparison to other European island regions;
* That there is no extreme difference between development in Malta and Gozo while other EU regions have larger internal disparities;
* Though the economic performance of Gozo is lower than the national average, the inhabitants of Gozo can easily benefit from business and employment opportunities offered by the capital city.”
Mr Psalia said that, the Commission’s concluding remark says that “the analysis of the report shows that economic and social situation of Gozo is similar to the one of many other European islands.”
“In October 2012, the European Commission said that the Gozitans “could easily be employed in Malta; that unemployment in Gozo compares favourably with other EU islands; that access to Gozo is relatively higher than other EU islands; that the fact that economic activity in Gozo is low should not be a problem for Gozitans because they can benefit from development and opportunities in Malta, said Mr Psalia.
He concluded by saying, “bright indeed is the future of Gozo within the EU.”